Appellate Insights

Apr 15, 2024 Gary J. Wax
Don’t Wait—Make The Jury Redeliberate

Special verdict forms can be confusing for juries.  If the jury returns a special verdict unfavorable to your client, review the completed verdict form for errors, ambiguities and inconsistencies before the court discharges the jury.  Otherwise, you risk forfeiting a challenge to the verdict form on appeal.  In reviewing the verdict, consider:

  • Did the jury make the required findings on all controverted issues, or are there omissions rendering the special verdict fatally defective?
  • Do the jury’s answers make sense, or are its findings hopelessly ambiguous or inconsistent, making them irreconcilable?
  • Did the jury correctly follow the form’s prompts about which questions to answer or skip in light of prior answers?

▶ The practical message:  Don’t wait for post-trial motions to challenge a special verdict.  Immediately object to any insufficient verdict before the jury is discharged so that the trial judge can order the jury to redeliberate to clarify the verdict.